Books Are Our Friends

Lunar Letter

M

iracles,

Happy Full Moon in Scorpio!

I have been deep in the Scorpio vibe over the past two weeks as I have been finishing up the manuscript for my forthcoming book Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary. I am SO pleased to announce that the manuscript is now finished and soon to be headed off to the publisher!

So many of you have been with me on this journey, checking in, offering support, and the kindest words of encouragement and I am so thankful and deeply appreciative of every single one of you for showing up and being there.

At some point, when I am not dog tired, I will write at length about how the last leg of this phase of the project has gone and what I learned along the way, but right now I am headed out to enjoy the glorious weather and to make some sweet offerings of thanks and gratitude at my altar in honor of my Holy Helpers.

The above picture is a snapshot of *some* of the books that have been included in the recommended reading section of my book. When I was running a bookstore with my best friend in San Francisco her husband asked us one time to describe the kinds of books we wanted to carry in our store. We are both pretty articulate ladies (my son says we talk A LOT) but we flailed about for words. Finally we settled on blurting out in exasperation: these books are our friends!!!

I still feel that way today. The best books are more than words on paper, they are friends. And I am lucky to have so many, my wish is that you do too.

Now get out there and relish this deep and magical moon!

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.

Hearth and Home, Vol. 3: Book Cover, Baby, and the Magic of Mercury Retrograde

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles,

Happy New Moon in Aries and Happy Mercury Direct!

As you may know, one of the most effective things we can do when “Mercury Retrograde” or Mercury RX hits is to review, clean, organize, and make efforts at self-maintenance, inner and outer.

Here are just a few things that have been happening in my neck of the woods, under the auspices of the wandering planet:

1. Last week, we finalized the cover design for my book Making Magic, which you can see above. I was over-the-moon thrilled to find out that Sounds True had enlisted the brilliant art of Cassandra, who has done all of the art and site development for my website and is a beloved friend and my collaborator in the daily blessing collection. I received four images, but the above was the one that made the cut. We – including my husband and son and the creative design team at Sounds True and my fantastic editor – all agreed this one was just right. I’m so in love with it and I hope all of you are too!

2. One of the ways I’ve been working with that pesky Mercury RX energy has been to review and edit and re-structure the first manuscript of my book. I finished the chapters since the last time I wrote you, so the timing has been just perfect. For a couple weeks I have been in the refining part of what is a very sculptural act. The form is present, the various parts are mostly in the correct places, and re-arranging does have to happen. There are places where the work sings and others where life must be breathed into it anew. Even though the weather has been gorgeous I have been tied to my computer, and at the end of the day I feel covered in the glimmering dust of words and ideas and, of course, magic…

3. We have also been working with the frisky Mercury RX energy to get a ton of repairs done…our home is almost 100 years old and so there are little cracks here and crevices there that have to be taken care of. The magic of skilled handy people is a magic I have come to deeply appreciate – especially when I see them through the eyes of our seven year old – he knows that all handy people – the plumbers, painters, and masons are absolute wizards. He follows them around asking a million questions (I don’t know where he got the habit from…) and they are so patient and kind and they actually take the time to teach him little bits of their trades. We are also putting in some new landscaping (yes, more herbs and more roots for the making of more custom magical goodies)! This is part of my extensive Uranus into Taurus personal magic making protocol. I’ll be posting pics on insta as we go.

4. My belly is so big now I not cannot see my feet (sigh), and I am in the waddling phase. So many of you have written to me to ask me how I am feeling and how I am doing, and I am happy to report that I am feeling really well as I whoosh into the third trimester. The baby’s nursery is 90% there with the other 10% being the challenge of putting away all of the adorable clothes I have been gifted and lent by friends and family. Whatever else happens, this baby is going to be well-dressed, my friends! As I have told a few beloveds, we also have the car seat, so if the little man decides to come tomorrow we are ready to rock.

In other exciting news: just yesterday Jasper picked up his first real book to read just for pleasure. He has been learning to read over the last couple of years and has been working with the smaller books that are divided into various reading levels, but yesterday was the first time he pulled a book down from his bookshelf and started to read it just for fun, just for pleasure.

What was the book? My Spinning Gold students will not be surprised to hear that it is a collection of fairy tales; he decided to start with Sleeping Beauty…that thirteenth fairy is SO curious!

And so on that note I am sending love on the gorgeous spring breezes and the goodness of all growing green things!
xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

Foundations

T

o go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight,
and find that the dark,
too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”
– Wendell Berry

Miracles,

Several years ago at a conference centered around divination, I was approached by a publisher who had heard about the collection of Daily Blessings – a collaborative project between illustrator Cassandra Oswald and myself.

Now the person who approached me worked in acquisitions for a large company that publishes a number of different card decks. They were intrigued by the notion of publishing a deck of blessings that could also be worked with as a divination tool. I knew that many people in my community were waiting for the Daily Blessings to be published because I received (and still do receive) requests every single week for exactly that – so I was game.

Then I showed her a few samples, and I’ll never forget what happened next.

She actually flinched, even cringed.

Her reaction was automatic and visceral. The blessings were great, but the white-on-black artwork was too…how shall we put it? Depressing, dreary, dark – some of the words that she used.

One of the most challenging blessings, as you can see above, is…black itself, without any white at all.

Would I be interested in taking the blessing phrases and working with a different artist in order to make a deck that the company would take to market?

(Depressing? Dreary? Since when has black meant these things…?)

She showed me artwork along the lines of what she was thinking: light pastel watercolors done up in what I think of as the high fantasy artistic tradition.

(Oh. No. no. no.)

I would have loved to say yes. But how could I?

The reaction to the darkness the daily blessings elicited that day has given me much thought. She is a smart woman with her thumb on the pulse of the burgeoning spiritual and “New Age” movements. She knows that the typical charge in our Sacred Arts communities is “love and light” not “love and dark”. She understands that many in our communities refer to themselves as “light workers” who illuminate and dispel darkness and “dark” negativity. She sees how culture, media, and entertainment have taken darkness and blackness and aligned them mostly with the scary and the unknown – sometimes in an exotic and alluring way, but mostly in just a one-dimensional frightening way so that darkness is bad and is meant to be banished or destroyed.

So, when the acquisitions person from the big, impressive, publisher wrinkled her nose at my beautiful black blessings, I knew that this publisher was not the right fit for me, and my response upon being asked to work with a different artist was a simple: “No thank you, I’m not afraid of the dark and neither are my people.”

I could not be interested in ‘using’ another artist for many reasons (as if artists are to be used). I had a working relationship with a talented young artist already for this collaboration, and the artistic style she and I had chosen was not accidental. Her concrete artistic choices have become an integral part of the daily blessings – separating them is unthinkable.

When I first approached Cassie with the idea of the Daily Blessings, I did not have in mind 365 unique and original art pieces. That came from her, as only one with her gifts and unique sensibility could conceive.

But I did have in mind the idea of white images and text on a black background. I wanted us to visually represent the concept of blessings written upon the dark like stars in the night sky. Dark is most essential to those little points of light. Even in an aurora, the darkness supports the luminous.

My love affair with real darkness is one that I come by honestly and it runs in the family. I like to think in truth a love of darkness runs in all families in different ways, shapes and forms. Some of my earliest memories are waking up at my grandparents house when everything was still very dark outside, usually around 3 or 4am. I would creep from my grandmother’s bedroom into my grandfather’s bedroom, because I knew he would be up – and if he wasn’t awake he would be getting up soon, for he was a military man and came from a farming family; and he kept the early morning hours found in both traditions.

Sometimes I would nudge him awake and ask him to play the guitar for me, and he would, in the darkness, play his acoustic guitar and sing me songs – starting with gospel standards, moving into honky-tonk and blues.

Sometimes he would already be up, sitting in the living room; and I would go and join him and sit with him, in the darkness and the quiet. As I’ve written elsewhere, he showed me about black and dark: life-giving, nurturing, and nourishing, and as sources of blessing – not as something to be feared. My mother inherited the same trait and can be found sitting in the darkness, cup of coffee in hand, most mornings, engaged in her own prayers and rituals.

I was the first to go to college in my immediate family. Now the college itself was a unique one; but just being there for me was a culture shock. Another student told me once that he thought I didn’t belong there – because I was strange: I didn’t seem cultured and intellectual, or I was blonde with brown eyes (not blue – imagine!), or I was an outspoken woman (as opposed to…), or – worst of all – I refused to give him money to buy booze for a party (as if I had any to give). But you know, I sometimes feared he was right; maybe I didn’t really belong there.

I had no idea what I was getting into, but college finally worked for me. When papers were due, I would go to bed early-ish, somewhere around 9pm, and get up at 3am – the same hours my grandfather and mother would get up. And then, when the parties were over, the drunks were in bed, the bars were closed, I would stealthily make my way across campus to one of the common rooms where I could write and work without being disturbed.

No one was awake. It was me and the all-black maintenance crew who was headed up by an older man – small, tough and protective – who reminded me very much of my own grandfather.

Being awake before anyone else, in the dark, talking to the janitors, was one of the times in college when I felt most at home and also missed home the most.

Good, black, dirt is an essential medicine in my family. We love to grow things and so we need the humus-rich soil that allows growth to happen. Good, black, coffee has pulled me out of a serious asthma attack on more than one occasion. To me and for me, going into the dark has always been restorative, it cleanses of too much light and too much noise, it allows me to be still, to be (as the Baptist hymn says) just as I am. Darkness calms and soothes.

I know I am not alone. Darkness asks us to rely on senses other than – deeper than – physical sight. Our delicately tuned body comes alive in the darkness in a way that it does not during the day. Paradoxically, it is in the darkness that one is best able to hear ones inner voice, to listen to the ‘Holy Helpers’, whatever they happen to be; to hear the calls and heed them, and thereby to really know and remember one’s own heart.

It is in the dark that I find rest, I find wonder, and fathomless mystery.

I do not think it is coincidental at all that when left to our own devices, all mammals preparing to give birth seek out one thing in common – a dark place in which to labor and bring forth new life.

A few weeks ago we were driving in the car with our little boy, who was chattering about colors – all the ones he liked and did not like. He blithely declared – freely, lightly – that he did not like the color black. We were surprised, and asked him why.

He knew the answer and went on to explain that in movies dark things are always scary and bad. Out of the mouths of babes!

So we asked him to help us think about darkness and black outside of movies – in his own experience, in nature, in people, in stories, in his art work (much of which is dark charcoal on paper), on the piano that he loves to play, on our black kitten, or in the ink mommy and daddy use to write, what about raven feathers found on hikes and dark woods, what about night skies full of stars? What about his darker skinned friends at school and mommy’s dark eyes?

And isn’t there such a thing as being blinded by too much light, of having too much sun?

(Too much light, by the way, is harmful to the health of everyone, as we live in a world that is increasingly saturated with artificial light and darkness itself has become an endangered species.)

He said “oh, yeah!” In his own life, he truly loves the color black, loves darkness, loves night time. It’s everywhere, and in people and creatures that we know and love, and it is not like the movies say it is.

And then he wondered…why then are the dark things so often portrayed as only scary, only fearsome, only bad?

Why, indeed!

Our language and our ways of thinking reflect this back to us every single day. The way we think as Sacred Artists and spiritual people does not match up with our living experience: between the two there is a wide and deep gap.

The challenge of the real dark: we all admit of darkness – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. To deny the dark, the real and blessed dark, pits us against ourselves, against an essential part of who we are. The dark places us directly in front of what we do not know; it places our own ignorance before us, and that is something much easier to run from than to dive into.

To deny the dark is to deny the tough-as-nails problems of life. How could we expect to find a meaningful spirituality that looks away from these problems? Or how could we expect to work on the tough-as-nails problems of life by denying that they even exist?

So why work hard on bridging the gap between our thoughts about and our actual experience of the dark?

The answer has two parts:

It’s probably more comfortable not to do anything, at least for a while. But you know what happens when you put off important things. Eventually, those chickens do come home to roost – and as those of you who have raised chickens know….they can make quite a mess!

No matter how good our intentions, sooner or later, denying the dark – as opposed to accepting what is in our actual experience – comes back to bite us on so many levels, too many to innumerate. It is a wound we keep on perpetuating that cuts and slices into places, ideas, creatures, and people that we love and hold dear; a wound that cuts and slices into us too – for it is not grounded in truth, insight, or wisdom.

The second part of the answer is this. To be true to what is real, to real people and real life…the reward for this direct honesty in thought and life is a magic that is real. That is, it is nothing you have to make up. It will have and hold both light and dark, gravity and grace, as do I, as do you, as do we all.

In this embrace is the real beauty of our lives, and it makes life most worth living. Why accept anything less?

In love and blessings,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.

Hearth and Home, Vol. 2: “XO” – The Best Business Decision Ever

Foundations

M

iracles,

Since sending out the previous Hearth and Home letter, I have received a number of questions about my business, asking for advice or asking questions as specific as Who designs your art work? or Who takes care of your site?

Here’s another question: Who the hell does this girl think she is, doing business so totally on her terms?!

This was a question a colleague-friend of mine confessed to having when he visited my website. It ticked him off a bit that I was carving out my own path, and – you know what? – it inspired him to turn around and do the same thing for his work – to which I say: HELL. YES.

Another dear one wrote to tell me that they found my business inspiring and that my business choices were helping them find their own true voice. I cannot imagine a kinder compliment than that.

So, given all of these queries from many different directions, Mid-Feb to Mid-March has been an invitation to share a few of things I’ve learned about business and life.

Many of us are looking for balance between work and life. When it comes to the notion of a work-life balance, what I can tell you from my own personal experience is this: when you run an intimate, micro, home-based and heart-and-hearth business, your work is your life and your life is your work. This means it can be difficult to tell which things are being balanced with what!

I think our idea of balance, if we leave it unexamined, can often create more problems than it intends to solve. If balancing work and life means that everything is serene and beautiful – and is the sort of balancing act in which things come to a sublime stop – perfectly still, poised and tension free – this is bound to induce headaches or worse, because tensions and imbalances are, frankly, unavoidable.

So we have to think about balance differently – like, say, balancing on a moving bicycle over rough terrain. Work-life balance for those of us who are micro-business owners is a changing, growing thing, and admits of tension.

By “tension” I mean that owning your own little business can be the most rewarding of endeavors, but if you aren’t prepared for it, this sort of job can drive people up the wall!

It could be maddening if you’ve been used to good ‘clean work’ at the office, where boundaries are clear and marked out for you already – e.g. when you are supposed to show up at the office, and so on. Working for yourself, you’ve got to be comfortable creating and setting down firm and tough boundaries (e.g. work-flow deadlines), while at the same time you have to know what comes first, stay supple, flexible and adaptable enough to handle life.

The core vision of my business is a pulsing, powerful tree with roots sunk deep into the soil and a canopy that spreads far and wide, strung with stars, and providing shelter to all Soulful Seekers – wherever you come from and however you show up.

It is this core vision that allows my service and work to thrive and to flourish and (most importantly) to serve thousands of people, while also sustaining my life and the life of my family. And it is that core vision that has allowed me to create a set of values and practices that have informed basic decisions that allow my business not just to be a vehicle, but actually a nourishing source, for my truest voice. So let me share some of those decisions with you.

Decision 1: “XO”

The single most important business decision that I have ever made?

The choice to begin signing my direct emails to clients and student in this way:

xo,
Bri

It is much more common for spiritual practitioners to sign their direct emails with something like “in blessing,” or “love and light”, etc. I do this too on occasion, but I became very clear years ago that I wanted clients, and later students, that I could send a hug and a kiss to, as I would with my friends and as I would with my family.

Decision 2: “No Client Avatar”

If you have ever invested in business coaching you know that often coaches and programs will have you begin by developing your ideal client avatar. That is, you work hard to identify the ideal kind of client you want to attract. Sometimes these profiles get really specific and include information like where the client lives, where they buy groceries, and how much money they bring in on an annual basis.

Try developing a client avatar for a Soulful Seeker though – I dare you! The truth is that we come from all walks of life, so many different zip codes and addresses, so many different kinds of professional experiences – it would be a terrible disservice to everyone to try to rigidly categorize varieties of individuals into one ‘type’.

My work stands or falls on the very real and very precious individuality of every person as a potential Sacred Artist. Being a Sacred Artist, like creative artist is nothing if does not flow from the irreducible you and your own experience of the world. Ever and always in my ‘philosophy’ there is room for all. So, no client avatar for me!

And yet, I did need to have a standard, a way of determining “is this person a right fit for both my business and the community that I am building around and through the business?” X and O were the answer. It cost nothing to implement. I just started signing emails the way I had always wanted to in the first place, and of course my people LOVED it. And yes, there were a few who did not, they went away and hopefully found people and services that were just right for them – because I was not.

I want to do business with real people, and I want my community filled with people that I can hug and kiss in real life, I want warmth, friendship, and real conviviality. That kind of clarity can actually not be found in ideal client avatars and sophisticated marketing schemes – it can only be found by asking what really matters to you and to what you are trying to build and then taking the time to listen – not to an expert but to yourself.

Decision 3: “Build a Better Magnet”

For those of you who pay attention to marketing, you may have come across the terms “push marketing” and “pull marketing”. Push marketing is when someone is pushing their stuff at you either irl or online. Pull marketing is what happens when a business is compelling enough to pull you in, interesting enough or necessary enough to have you seeking them out. Pull marketing is preferred for a whole bundle of reasons – personally my top reason for liking it better is that it allows each individual to make up their own mind about whether they want to engage with a given service or product and how deeply they wish to engage with the same – you know I’m a fan of sovereignty.

The challenge of course is that in a sea of small and micro-businesses and then in an ocean of much larger, well funded, businesses, how does one set oneself apart in the first place so that people do feel pulled to whatever you offer? You cannot outsell or out advertise larger businesses so what do you do?

You build a better magnet.

One of the most consistent compliments that I receive on my business is that it is consistent. By which people mean that the look of my website, the tone of my writing, the way that I carry myself on social media, and the way that I show up in person all feel like they form a whole. They do not feel “sales-y” and they don’t feel like I am trying to market something. Rather, they feel compelling because they feel genuine, and they are. Magnets compel – that’s what they do, they attract and compel. Your business can do the same thing – no matter its size. And magnets are a great analogy because in magnet-land size does not equal strength. Compelling power is where the secret sauce lives.

So, how do you make a business compelling? All sorts of programs will try to sell you on systems trappings and marketing schemes and platforms. But, in my opinion, there is no better way to make a business compelling than to answer a set of fundamental questions about your core vision, and what you actually offer in terms of real content, something genuine and desirable.

Content should not be anything you make up, rather it should be rooted in real, lived, experience and knowledge – or (and this important!) it should not be something you feel you have to imitate.

This is where finding your voice (or even acknowledging that you have a voice) can be deeply helpful. You may really love someone’s work, and think “Hey I can do that!” and begin to imitate them, whether realizing it or not. It happens all the time.

This is natural, because, it is part of how we learn, and as we are inspired by other people’s work, our inspirations and new knowledge nourishes our own expanding visions. Here is where we need to be very careful: not because of copyright infringement (although that is a concern everyone should be wary of) – but the real concern is our own ability to be straight and honest with ourselves. Is this your own work? Is it coming from you? Do you really have a grasp of it? Do you really know what you don’t know? Have you done your homework? Have you paid your dues? Has it been tempered by experience? If you can be honest with yourself to work through these and other questions, the whole problem of imitation falls away.

And for those of you who see that you fall into the twin traps of either imitation or lack of inspiration – check your inboxes. I’ll put money down that you are subscribed to way too many email newsletters from way to many coaches and business advisors who are giving you way too many pieces of conflicting information. This is information overload, and it runs counter to the three things you really need to develop your own true voice: quiet, space, and the right amount of time.

Develop real content and real services that we ourselves are certain we have originated – and that actually works and actually helps. The core or seed I started with was what most resonated for me by a combination of lineage, training and discovery. (I’m excited to see what you come up with!)

From the name of my company, Milagro Roots, which came to me in a dream, to the image of the Sacred Heart, which I had always loved, to the fact that I write long form style — these are some of the elements that make me who I am. They are compelling to me and they are compelling to the people who are the right fit for what I have to offer.

I also had great coaching along the way from dearest friends – Roxana, my BFF, who at the beginning of my path, taught me the ropes of “best practices” and showed me how to focus on the one or two things that really matter; Fabeku who is a wise sounding board and as he says “suck-excorcist” for my business even today.

Even though I’m a Sacred Arts teacher and a writer, these practices grow from the most essential, the most necessary, characteristic of all: trusting and learning from your community. The truth is compelling always, telling real stories is compelling, pointing out easily missed opportunities is compelling. Doing any of these things to the best of your ability and your people will begin to notice, and appreciate, and show up…why? Because your magnet is strong.

Decision 4: Embracing Mistakes

Sometimes my website does strange things formatting wise, my clients or students miss an email or inform me that an email was never sent out. It would be a lie to say that my business runs like a well oiled machine. And I like it that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I do loathe mistakes and I cringe whenever I find a typo in my work, but you know the thing is, I am not a well-oiled machine, my husband who is my COO is not a well-oiled machine, so why should my business be one? Where did such a bizarre expectation ever come from in the first place?

I’m glad that my students and clients can pop into my inbox and point out a mistake or remind me of a glitch – wouldn’t it be sad if we were just only professional with each other all the time? Wouldn’t that be boring?! I embrace my mistakes and I learn from them. Done and done.

Decision 5: People Matter

Cassandra does all of the artwork for my site, she is also the site developer and the site manager. Nathan provides my hosting. Monica is my virtual assistant. Jessica is my bookkeeper and Danielle is my photographer. My husband, David, runs all of the operations.

It would have been easier and less expensive for me to pop up some generic visuals instead of having custom art created, less pricey to have hosting through one of the big companies, and there is no real reason why someone needs to stick with one VA in this day of freelance everything.

But Cassandra knows my style, she knows what visually appeals both to me and to my community, she understands that beauty is deeply needed right here and right now, and her art work is a medicine that reflects that. She is also a dear friend and we have collaborated together on multiple creative projects – I don’t want generic, I want the specific look and feel that Cass was able to tap into for me on day one.

Nathan is Nathan. That means that whenever I hit a glitch, or have hackers trying to invade the site, or find that the site is down, I just send a message to Nathan and he gets back to me immediately. (I wonder if he sleeps). He fixes whatever needs to be fixed AND he always teaches me how to do something as well. I don’t ever have to talk to a automated voice and I don’t have to wait because Nathan is on it.

Monica is my VA. Several years ago we worked together and then she had a baby and left her VA lifestyle. Last spring I knew it was time to get another VA and so, on the off chance that she might say yes, I emailed Monica. Why? Because Monica knows me, she knows my business, and I know and love her. If you are interested in the magic that is Monica you can email her directly (see, she doesn’t even need a website) right here.

When David and I started working together a lot of people who know us gave us that sideways glance that said (very loudly) “are you sure??!!” It is always tricky when a couple decides to dive into working with each other, but we had done it before and we knew it was the right fit for our family. We also really love spending time together, working together, and we happen to excel at very different skill sets. David has his own projects as do I, but there is no one I could trust with the essence of both the community and business that we are building like I can my beloved.

Jessica is my bookkeeper. I hired her because I hate bookkeeping and I also am not the greatest at it. When we first decided to work with Jessica it was a significant expense for our business – one that started saving us money almost immediately. Jessica’s role in our business is two-fold – she does our accounting but she also is a tangible reminder that it is beyond worth it to invest in someone who has a needed skill set for your business that you either do not have or that you have zero interest in developing yourself – she reminds me how to care for myself, my right work, and our business.

Danielle Cohen has taken the beautiful photos you see on my website. There are many amazing photographers to work with but Danielle is who I work with consistently. I felt that having professional photos was such a luxury and not really that important for the longest time. Last May, when I met up with Danielle in Santa Fe and we had an hours long photo shoot, I realized how essential having some good photos is – not for marketing or for social media – although they help – but for me, for reflection, for a visual testament to my role within my greater community.

One of the things that I consistently teach is that the Sacred Arts are custom jobs – they are unique to each person. That means that you have to see each person, each unique being, with clarity. We are not interchangeable people or parts.

People matter. This is a core belief of my business, it is something I talk about all of the time. What would it mean if I ran my business in the exact opposite way – as if people didn’t really mater that much? As if a “team” was just an interchangeable group? It would fly in the face of everything I stand for, and it would make the business far less compelling too.

Decision 6: Listening, Not Asking

As a tarot reader I know that what Henry Ford said is true “If I asked people what they wanted, I would have made a faster horse.” All of us have a hard time asking for what we really want because all of us have a hard time imagining what is really possible. Many businesses love to do surveys and get customer feedback and opinions. I too love hearing from my people but I do not send out surveys, I do not ask my people what they want. Instead I listen to what they are already saying. That was why I started teaching online. When I first developed my business, I did not think that I would ever be teaching online, but I listened to my community and what I heard was: we need a teacher, so I stepped up. It really was that simple.

Decision 7: Giving Back

Many businesses talk about the donations they make to various not-for-profits, which I think is fantastic. This is one way to give back, and there are others. I like creating free ceremonies for everyone in my community, and I partnered with Theresa several years ago and we now have created quite a resource for mystical business owners through our Talking Shop podcast. These are little ways to give back, to keep paying the love and learning forward, each act can make a significant difference.

Decision 8: Core Principle

Finally, I think all businesses, but especially home-based, heart-based businesses need a core principle to live by. Knowing what comes first and what last is more than half of the whole. This is the guiding principle not of your business but of your relationship to your business. For my work it is this: our business is here to support our life; our life is not here to support our business.

Now I love working, so this is not easy for me to say.
But what this means is that I will always put our lives first – my family’s lives, and this also means your lives. In other words, in my work, I take no interest in slick marketing schemes designed to boost profit, but the real thing: what is ethical, reliable, down-to earth, consistent, and what possesses integrity. I will not trademark the term Sacred Arts or create a certification program – because the essential teaching I promote is that Sacred Arts belong to everyone and the work we do in our community boils down to deeper self-knowledge. You can’t certify that; you just pursue it and do it.

If I am not absolutely convinced that the substance of my teaching, writing and services do not promote life, by encouraging the development of Sacred Arts in our real lives as it would make sense to each of us; if they don’t actually help real people, I am resolved to pitch it out, even if I know it will make more money.

That means that if I have to re-schedule an appointment because my son has a school event that I missed writing down, then I do it. My clients know that about me, I don’t hide it, and my community members not only get it, they appreciate it. Again, this is consistent with my practice that our spiritual practices should support our lives not vice versa. Each person gets to decide what their rule is; and when you do, tough decisions all of a sudden become much easier to make.

Thus I will set aside time for family and friends in need, because I know that if I can’t show up here in a genuine way, then how can I expect to show up for you?

The upshot of the core principle as I’ve described it is that it means putting substance first. This is my north star.

These are highlights, not the whole picture, but the some of the parts that I think are the most important when it comes to my business. Thanks to all of you who have been asking for inspiring me to jot them down!

Other highlights since the last letter came out include:

Getting the baby’s nursery ready! I FINALLY finished my registry, for those of you who are wading through the insane world of car seats and strollers let me just say that I feel your pain. I mean, I’ve translated ancient Greek texts and Sanskrit texts too – I would rather do either than shop for strollers.

Celebrating all of the Pisces that I know and love — my son, my husband, one of my best girlfriends, and beloved teacher – my first week of March is birthday fantastic!!!

Transferring the completed, hand-written manuscript of Making Magic onto the computer. The first step in this process is getting the rough draft in and trying not to wince too hard at the roughness of the draft. This will be followed by some hardcore honing and polishing. It’s a good thing I can type fast.

Receiving love notes, like the one above, from Jasper just out of the blue. Writing and reading are absolutely magical acts – never doubt it.

Wishing you so much love as we head into the Pisces New Moon on March 17th. Here is a blessing for that New Moon by the way.

xo,
Bri

Image credit: Jasper’s note to me!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.

Thoughts and Prayers: Footprints of the Heart

Learning and Community

M

iracles,

How do we heal?
What can the Sacred Arts teach us about healing?

As long as we greet difficult times and crises with the traditional “thoughts and prayers are with you” response, we have an obligation to express exactly how thoughts and prayers lead not just to action – which is the typical battle cry – but lead to deep, lasting, enduring healing.

How delicate we truly are becomes apparent when we consider not only the vast expanse of the universe we live in, but the tide the pressures, and even the dangers, of daily life.

Blaise Pascal, so long ago, trembled in complete terror at the the infinite without and the infinite within. Everything fixed dissolves. We are but fragile reeds, all too easily crushed by forces both external and internal.

That we can be hurt and that we are vulnerable in so many ways – body, mind and heart, even in ways we often aren’t always prepared to admit – cannot be denied, though it is popular to try, to claim loudly that all is well and proclaim “peace, peace” when in fact there is no peace.

While recognizing this fact of our existence – that we all have experienced wounds, that we all know what it means to feel broken – while acknowledging and even honoring it, the Sacred Arts perspective holds this knowledge in balance. Our struggles are one part of our stories; not the whole of them.

This is is what the Sacred Arts teach us. Take any practice of meditation or prayer, rituals and ceremony, any devotion to the movements of the body and spirit, any use of divination and folk practices of magic or storytelling. Look at Tarot or Astrology – for example – and consider the stories being told there, the situations unfolding.

Here is what you will find: just as we are delicate in ways we may not be totally willing to admit, we are also tougher and more resilient in ways that we also aren’t always prepared to admit, or in ways that we simply have a hard time seeing. There are possibilities – choices – we haven’t yet imagined, potentialities waiting for us in real life, here and now, like those newly discovered rooms and places that many of us come upon in our night time dreams.

We would like nothing more than to realize this about ourselves – that we are tough and tender, that we are broken and blessed – not either/or but both/and, and yet, it is so very difficult to see ourselves, to know ourselves, wholly. Much easier to flip through ideas and big abstractions, words and images, much easier to misjudge where the broken places and the blessings that emerge from them show up in our unique and particular lives.

The Sacred Arts are not treasure maps where X marks the spot, nor are they a labyrinth where there is one way in and one way out. Rather, the Sacred Arts are like the pilgrimage pathways that can be found world over – they are knowings, they are practices, they are prayers poured out straight from the soul that give us the needed support as we go about literally re-membering ourselves, re-membering all of our parts, re-membering that every wound also calls forth a medicine.

There is not “one pathway to rule them all”, not a one-size-fits-all method, but many related, complementary mutually supportive pathways, woven together by each living soul. Maybe they are woven neatly, but often they are not. The stories, songs, poems, dances, rituals, wisdom books, prayers and blessings, the clothes and fabrics and foods, the architectural dwellings, the divinations and the magical ways and means, all serve to help us make those discoveries for ourselves, in our own time, out of our own raw and direct experiences of life – and this is what, at bottom, matters most.

That is to say – it is not “thoughts and prayers” that matter so much. It is your thoughts and your prayers, and their ‘metabolism’ within the horizon of your own life that matters. The specific ways you think and the ways that you act on those thoughts. The ways that you pray (with a reminder here that prayer was never meant to be uttered in an abstract, passive and impersonal voice). When understood in this way, your thoughts and your prayers are part of the blessing that come out of your particular wound. They are part of your medicine, and we are all a little bit more healed when they are shared. The actions that come from them inspire and help others find their own way.
Hearts heal differently than bodies. This shouldn’t surprise us because our mind and heart follow somewhat different pathways than our beautiful bodies do. This difference is precisely what makes ‘heart and soul’ healing so difficult to achieve – especially if we are locked into a single way of looking at the healing process, abstracting from the physiological processes of the body. It is why, when I write about healing, I also write about wholeness and holiness – they need to be kept together.

It is also why so many of our collective efforts so often come down to so many unsatisfying remedies and palliatives that never work – rationalistic ten step programs and three steps to happiness. We’re groping in the dark here. Mystery does not operate according to blue prints and soul tends to ignore the best laid plans.

And so we run. And in our culture this often looks like forgetting. It sounds like the banal “thoughts and prayers are with the survivors” that lacks all teeth, all presence, all gravity. It looks like getting really pissed and angry and righteously indignant and then getting tired and then moving on, until the next trauma emerges, be it personal or political or global, and we go through the whole cycle again.

All too often we never stop fleeing from our private sufferings, never stop reaching out for healing in systems and life-ways far away and apart from our own – sometimes even avariciously grabbing them long before they are ever freely offered. We gain as much distance as we can from our scars and brokenness, from our raw experiences, and we learn to cover up and distract ourselves in a thousand different ways.

But, as they saying goes, you cannot outrun yourself. To flee from what hurts is also and at the same exact time to flee from what can be healed. It is a betrayal of self and soul and it does not make for easy sleep or better living. Certainly it does not make a future that knows more in the way of healing, wholeness and holiness and less in the way of suffering, brokenness, and diminishment.

Our thoughts and our prayers. The expression has become a trigger for so many because it sounds like mere pablum. And yet. When you take the time to speak to people who live close to the marrow of life, you will also find that in the deepest shadow what carries through is exactly thought and prayer – perfectly aimed, correctly tuned, full of fierce passion and deep wisdom. What can illuminate our way so that we have more of the second and less of the first?

We might turn to the image of the Sacred Heart for help. Here we have the familiar heart symbol, but there is a fountain of fire pluming from within the heart’s division, the heart itself is encircled with lines of radiance, with barbed wire, with rose thorns, or sometimes wings. When we see it in its radiant glory, we may easily forget that the shine and radiance is that of a heart and spirit that has been to hell and back.

In image and imagination, every possible wound has been inflicted on the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart speaks to the scarred heart, pierced by a thousand swords, cut by a thousand pieces of glass, wrapped in rusty barbed wire and a crown of thorns; and sometimes, at first, we think that those scars are something to hide from the world, something to keep quiet, to keep covered up. In our modern parlance it has been dragged down, shot up, bruised, dented, banged around in all manner of ways and yet…still keeps on ticking.

Where does it get all that power from? From what or where does it arise?

See for yourself. Sacred Heart speaks also to the scared heart, afraid because we know we can be harmed, frightened of our worst dreams coming true, scared that the wounds we are asked to face cannot ever, really, be healed. Experiencing the traumas to body and spirit that cut so deep, the ideas that bind us to a limited view of life and love, the habits that keep us from not just living life, but living life well, we are afraid that we will only ever be broken.

Sacred, scarred, and scared heart teaches us this then: the way to strengthen your thoughts and prayers into something real, something lasting, something that actually will bring healing is nothing more than to really learn to bear witness to what is broken, in the full knowledge that the blessing can and will be found.

Not either/or but both/and.

Buddhist traditions (like all spiritual traditions) also have their own Sacred Arts practices, and tell the same story: the radiant lotus blooming out of the muddy murky depths. The suffering of our lives and the deepest well-spring of joy and peace are not two separate realms or fundamentally different things, although they may appear to be. Our challenge is to face our own tendency to always look away, in the other direction, far away from that ‘muck’, for our joy – oh god anything but the muck! – and, in so doing, cut off the real sources of joy in our lives.

The Catholic tradition reminds us that to the Sacred Heart, what we call broken shards and scars are for it the crown jewels which bedeck and bedazzle.

And the Sacred Arts remind us that Thoughts and Prayers are not weak or insipid or pointless so long as they come from your own rich soul soil, for then they reverberate with effective power, opening blessing ways that come from within the heart of sorrow and the deepest wounds.

This is not an easy teaching, and I’m afraid many will find it hard to stomach. I would like nothing more to to tell you that there is a silver bullet formula, an easy five step program, and that when you learn magic, a simple magical spell will solve all of your problems in a flash.

Ah, but then you would never come to be reminded and to discover your own bone-deep knowing what real magic is, and that it is here, in your life, and it has been waiting for you, all along.

And if I insisted that it’s to be along a single path, why, you will have been misled along a fruitless direction and would consequently never come to know what gifts you truly do have in this life, and moreover why it is we have the Sacred Arts in the first place to lead us forward along the footprints of beauty, power, wisdom and grace towards thoughts and prayers that usher in real healing and enduring change.

In love and blessings,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.

Hearth and Home Volume One

Learning and Community

M

iracles,

Welcome to the newest series I call Hearth and Home. You will be able to find it posted here on Canto, and sent with love to the Lunar Letter list. (Join in the fun here). The picture to your left is a drawing by my almost-seven year old son, Jasper, who wanted me to share it with all of you. And so it is that sharing is the theme of this new series.

First of all, I want to extend a warm thank you to so many of you. Everyone I have had phone conversations with over the past month has asked me how I am doing on the book and how I am feeling in my pregnancy – to say nothing of the private messages I have received on FB, Insta, and Twitter. They mean the world to me.

Writing a book and being pregnant at the same time have become for me deeply intertwined experiences. In brief, I am now five months pregnant, and my official due date is June 11th – right around the time the manuscript is due for Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary, to be published by Sounds True, in 2019.

The journey to get to this moment has been eye-opening and tremendous, and it has encouraged me to share more openly than I usually do with all of you miracles.

If we were visiting in person, I would invite you into my home, ask you to sit at my hearth, and I’d serve you Topo Chico with lime, if it was a warmer day (which usually it is); or the tea of your choice or strong coffee roasted in high mountains.

Coffee, I should add, is a sort of medicine for me – not to help me wake up, but to help soothe my asthma. I actually don’t drink a lot of it; I nurse one cup slowly, the Arabic way I like to think (a nod of appreciation to Philz Coffee in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose charming owner is from the Middle East. They are a pretty famous outfit now, but when I started going, you could still see Phil in his awesome fedora working quality control – the BEST).

When I say strong coffee, y’all, I mean it. None of this new-fangled, hipster, light roast for me – no thank you! The blacker the roast the better in my opinion, and my favorite is the Tres Estrella blend (Three Stars for those of you non-Spanish speakers) from Ohori’s Coffee in Santa Fe.) All of this is to say that you should not be surprised if, after an hour of this make-believe conversation, it would seem as though I have barely touched my coffee at all. I’d be asking you tons of questions (those of you who have had readings with me or worked with me one-on-one should be nodding your heads right now) and my darker-than-the-deepest-night roast coffee would be cold and forgotten!

I like to ask questions. At the end of the day, you will discover that one of the deepest truths about me is that I am a lover of learning. One of the most important things this means to me is that I do not have all the answers. I often tell my students in the Miracle Tree Sessions and Spinning Gold that I am learning right beside them – that’s not just a thing I say – it is something I deeply believe and know to be true.

Sometimes I encounter newcomers in my community who think of me as an expert or a guru of some kind. As Jasper would say: no way! Our intuitive gifts and our Sacred Arts practices do not give us a right to omniscience nor to omnipotence, and, in my opinion, it’s better that way: life is much richer and more overflowing with surprises, wonder and goodness. Our gifts are the very expression of soulful seeking after beauty, truth, wholeness and holiness. If we had all the answers already, there would be no need for these gifts in the first place!

Every day and all encounters, in every way, present little opportunities for learning, and this experience is part of the warp and weft of not only my own life-tapestry, but my family’s as well, and my Sacred Arts practice.

As I was thinking about my desire to share with all of you the various happenings, then, I decided that I wanted these more personal posts to reflect most of all this sense of a living learning that makes up my actual life and practice. And I really want to do this with an eye to the end of giving all of you a glimpse of the way one gal, a Sacred Artist, interprets the meaning of living an enchanted life from the inside out, as well as offering a sense of the Sacred Arts in action, in the glorious mess and chaos and wild beauty that is life right here and right now.

So, for those who are interested in the more personal aspect of the Sacred Arts, I invite you to grab the beverage of your choice, kick back, and get comfy. Whatever else I may be accused of, brevity is not on the list!

The story for the past few months begins at three or four am, when I rise every morning to begin writing. I have always been an early riser (and now with a one pound jelly bean shifting and twirling during wee hours, it is especially easy to get up) and so sitting down to write before everything else just made sense.

The house is quiet. The moon, in whatever phase she inhabits, shines through the window at my desk, and after I write, I perform my morning devotions, which involve rituals, chanting, prayer, and magic. As I write, I sometimes seem to sense the little one saying to me “Um, really Mommy? That sentence just will not do”, or “Oooh, that’s a good one!”

You might be interested to learn that I am handwriting the first draft. Yes, that’s right: handwriting. It is nearly finished, two chapters to go. There will be many more drafts to come, but the work has been steady and swift – every morning the next batch of pages, one after the other. I find that for me, handwriting the book at this early stage makes up in feeling, depth and clarity of thinking for what it may lose in terms of speed and efficiency.

Once the entire manuscript has been handwritten, I will then type it out, molding it in slightly different ways as I do so, and then begin on the second draft. (A wise old teacher once compared this stage of the writing process to a momma bear licking her cub into shape.) Writing in this way is also easy because if I lose electricity – which actually happened a few times this Winter in San Antonio – or if a new idea comes to me, I just write it down. My handwritten pages are already festooned with hot pink post-it notes. It is all very high-tech.

The idea of handwriting the first draft actually began with a fiasco. At the end of December’s Mercury Retrograde, my seven year old laptop took a tumble and, as the Ancient Greek poet Homer says, bit the dust. In an instant, without a threnody of underwater goddesses to support me or announce the departure, I discovered that I had lost the nascent files I had created for the book. Oh, there was a moment of despair! But then, I realized that I had actually handwritten the pages first. So I went to my three ring binder and saw that, indeed, the pages were still there in my spidery scrawl. No batteries or plugs were needed to access them; and, as long as I keep the sheets protected from the elements, they have just what I need to make the most solid start I can muster. And from that point, I haven’t stopped.

In my course Spinning Gold, I refer us to J.R.R. Tolkien  “eucatastrophe”, a narrative element he identifies in Fairy Tales. This tumble-down topsy-turvy destruction of my old trusty laptop is a little example of eucatastrophe, because – as a result of this loss – not only did I discover a better way to approach the writing of my book, I also decided to replace my laptop with a desktop which is much better for my posture and my health (my dear friend Theresa Reed – the Tarot Lady – who also happens to teach yoga was like: DESKTOP. NOW. She is wise). Handwriting the first draft has also cut down on my screen time, which has been very healthy for me and for the wee one.

So both the book and the baby have forced me to take a fresh look at some of my daily habits. This, my friends, is one of the first steps of Sacred Arts in action; one that I have seen many of you do as well.  For me, as I have been writing the book, I have felt the need to allow my own ideas their own space, silence, and time for gestation and deep metabolism.

Reading too much, or the wrong things, taking in information without proper discernment, can muddy those waters. One becomes more sensitive here. Actually, our community of Soulful Seekers is full of sensitive folks – those who feel deeply, who take external information and stimulus in a deeply internal way. For me, as I felt a growing sensitivity occur on multiple levels, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, one of the biggest changes I’ve made has to do with my intake of news. My habit was to look at various news items on the internet, or an app on my phone, just as a matter of convenience.

I started noticing that I never really spent any time with any one of the items. Glancing, skimming, here and there, working with the general, most vague impressions of things. How could I not feel ashen blooms of anxiety on a regular basis? I want to be an informed citizen AND there had to be a better way, other than exposing myself to huge amounts information, without being able to process or digest any of it effectively. I also noticed that in my community my students were experiencing something similar – so many of us are on media and social media overload these days.

So now I have put a stop to all of this glancing and skimming, and have migrated offline to ‘slow’ media and long form writing – to my favorite weekly periodical the Economist, a British publication.  I’ll work through it, slowly all week, from cover to cover.

I don’t agree with everything there, but I like the style of thinking and reporting, its global scope and comprehensiveness. When I have the time to take a short break from my writing, my teaching and counseling work and my devotions, I grab my strong coffee, usually in the afternoon (which I still haven’t finished, by the way, and since it has grown cold, I ask my sweet husband to warm it up for me); I turn everything off, I slow down and I take my time. I am happy to report that this way of approaching the news – looking to offline sources of long-form writing and analysis – has promoted some very good ‘mental’ digestion – has helped to build a kind of psychological toughness, and promotes the development of knowledge rather than merely fleeting impressions of things. I do the same thing with fiction – right now I am reading the Antelope Wife  by Louise Erdrich.

Once you begin to look at the basics, there is no stopping. One thing leads to another. We pay attention to one place and others unfold. (This is why, by the way, I teach about and encourage the interrelationship and wholeness that holds between all of the Sacred Arts.)

So I’ve also become aware of some unhelpful ideas when it comes to book writing. I know many of you are writers yourselves, and probably a few of you would like to publish a book one day too. One of the ideas I had when this process started was that I would have uninterrupted days where for hour upon hour all I could do was write. Conversely, is the fear that if we don’t have long stretches of uninterrupted hours, there would be no way I would ever finish the work.  But after actually having a few of these halcyon days of zero interruptions over the Winter, I realized that, for me at least, having long stretches of time to do nothing but write was a kind of hell.

I love writing so very much. But I also love and have a duty to teach my Spinning Gold and Miracle Tree students, I love my one-on-one sessions, I love creating ritual and ceremony for my Witch In Your Pocket and Lunar Lights clients, and so on. I love every part of my work. I realized I have watched it feed and nourish the writing in some unexpected ways. It turned out, devoting all my time to writing choked out one of the more important sources of inspiration for my writing, which, after all is said and done, is all of you. What I discovered is this: I don’t need all of the time, I just need the right amount of time.

As I tell a story of magic with pen on paper there is another magical tale growing inside of me. I am one of those lucky and blessed women who seem to have easy pregnancies (though I do feel that I made up for it with my first labor which was thirty-six plus hours). This pregnancy has been markedly different from my first, because now it is not just two who are affected by the little one; it is also our first child, Jasper.

This pregnancy is also different because I am thirty-seven, whereas I was twenty-nine when I was pregnant with Jasper. During my first pregnancy, I discovered how pathologized pregnancy is, at least here in the US (I cannot speak to other traditions in other places). You are often made to feel almost as if there is something wrong with you for being pregnant – that you are fragile and must be hawk-eyed by every doctor and nurse, that you require many medical personnel doing medical things around you all of the time. Because of some of the health issues in my family, my husband and I both chose to have our first child and this next child in the hospital. And I love my Ob-Gyn – she is the bees knees and does not make me feel like a sick person at all.

But, the culture around pregnancy and pregnant women has A LOT of shifting to do and that is ESPECIALLY true if the woman is over thrty-five. As I reflect on this, I think there are bigger ramifications that it speaks to. I wonder if this is part of what happens when we have any kind of liminal experience, which pregnancy and birth definitely are; but so are others, like divorce, physical illness, recovery from addiction, or mental breaks – each of these events have undeniable physiological realities and may require medical treatment and intervention.

But to think that the only reality they carry is medical – that there are not other, more subtle realities also at work and that there are not other, more magical treatments and supports that are also appropriate – seems very short sighted to me. It does not gel with any of the traditions that I am familiar, nor with ones deepest sense and experience of things. A pregnant woman needs both her physical and metaphysical needs attended to in various ways. She also has a specific kind of access to magic and the liminal that can be of benefit not just to her, but can and should be to the benefit of the entire community. So yes, lots of room for improvement here.

Of course when Baby Saussy (whom we are calling Sausalito for the time being) kicks and moves and twirls and tumbles, I am not concerned with the fact that large parts of the culture pathologize pregnancy. I am much more interested in talking to the little one, engaging in my morning rituals of prayer and chant and magic, and writing up some information on making magic that supports conception, safe pregnancy, and then the wonderful, wild, ride that is being a parent.

I am also deeply aware, even more than usual, of the large percentage of our community who cannot or have chosen not to have children. I have written to you all before and I know that for many of you, reading this brings up all the stuff – excitement and love for me and my family (which I am so grateful for) but also sadness, depression, even anger too. I get that. I want you all to know that when it comes to this momma, you are seen, you are beloved, and you are held as precious. My beloved and I are so grateful that our boys have a large community of men and women who they can call on for guidance, inspiration, mothering and fathering in all of the different ways that mothering and fathering can and do happen. You all are a vital part of our lives.

When it comes to magic, my big effort over the past month has been to say thank you. I was gifted with a wonderful gratitude jar and card set for Yule. Every day I write down something that I am grateful for and I also text it to my best girlfriend. Sometimes the things are what you would expect: grateful for a healthy baby, grateful for an amazing husband, and sometimes they are not: grateful for pain that gives me information, grateful for hot water – what an incredible luxury that is!

On the 1st of January I created a big gratitude altar for my Holy Helpers complete with tons of flowers and good candles and their favorite foods. I did not ask for anything. I just spent time saying thank you for what has been given. It felt so good. The shifts felt in my life and family over the past thirty days because of that practice have been noticeable and it is now a regular part of my monthly rituals.

So ending this first letter on that note seems just right to me. Some things that I am grateful for right now and that I would love to share with you:

My beloved husband and the amazing not for profit he runs alongside managing all of the operations for my business.

My son’s fantastic art making (see above) and the fact that I get to live with artists and musicians.

My allowance of one cup of coffee – which I will shamelessly nurse throughout the day and ask my husband to heat up for me again and again and again.

Really cute kittens. 

This book.

This service.

This blog.

The fact that Tarot and Photography are talking to each other.

Open roads.

And each one of you.
In love and magic,

Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.

Choose and Be Well

Foundations

D

ear Miracles,

Someone dear to me asked that I write to my Lunar correspondents about how to gain perspective in troubled times.  Understandably enough. The month of August 2017 has given us whiplash – first, Charlottesville, then the remarkable eclipse, ending with Hurricane Harvey.

I have a few thoughts about all of this, but I decided it would be best to hold off before answering, and pull some cards from my classic Marseilles deck first, in the spirit of the Delphic Days we started over a year ago. I had my beloved lend assistance, since this is a concern we both have together.

What do we need to know in troubled times, I asked, and what is the appropriate way to respond?

The first card we pulled was the diagnostic card: the Tower Card. And then the answer to the second query came in two parts: Death and the Sun, Le Soleil.

I actually love the Tower card. It speaks to change – swift and absolute. There is nothing subtle about this card, no easing one into the difficult times. Rather, they land on your doorstep, on your television screen, in living color and undeniable.

The Tower also speaks to a core tenet of the Sacred Arts – that beauty is found in the broken places. And so it is. I have been privileged now to watch hundreds and hundreds of people sift through and stand knee deep in their broken places. Without fail they find treasure. It is always unexpected. Not always clearly applicable in the moment. But treasure nonetheless. I like this card too, because it tells you what you are dealing with straight up – it feels like the end of the world because in some ways, it definitely is.

In the Marseilles deck “Death” is simply “XIII”, that is, it is unnamed. In my experience with the card generally, and what I encourage my clients and students to see, is that Card XIII is nothing to be scared of, and can lead to very interesting and useful insights.

When we divine, we are looking for a way of understanding not only what might be, but also what is, and what has been. And whenever one is engaged in this project, it is much more useful to be led by curiosity as opposed to passionate feelings that are often called up by organizations that have their own agendas (hint: not concerned with what is best for you).

So as diviners we ask questions, and the interesting one to ask with Card XIII here is…why is it unnamed? Why is Death not written on the Card? Every other card in the Major Arcana has a title – for example, The Sun or The Tower. I will have more to say about this question below. But let’s begin with the final card that came up in the reading, The Sun.

What is the appropriate way to respond? we asked.

Under the brilliant rays of the sun, two people hold each other in a caring embrace. This was especially poignant to me as something literally needed for significant parts of my home state of Texas – to dry things up, to shine once more, to remind us that all was not lost.

The first thing many of us do in troubled times is look out for number one. It is so deeply an instinctual urge that very likely no human being is immune from it. Disaster looms and the first thought is: I’m going to get mine, I’m going to take care of me, it’s a dog eat dog world.

Thomas Hobbes, a political philosopher whose work still shapes the world today, said it like this: “life is nasty, brutish, and short.” He believed that men responded in kind to that reality, making life, and politics a zero sum game of winner takes all. It is easy to write off that idea as another irrelevant notion by a European man, but the man had lived through some serious devastation and war. He had witnessed events first hand that gave him this impression. And we have some sense of what he is talking about. But the upshot politically is that our common life all comes down to force – not justice, not something beautiful and good.

We can feel it physically when this attitude comes over us. Jaw juts out. Voice gets louder, harsher. Shoulders hunch forward, eyes narrow in suspicion, and we are just waiting and ready to drop down into fighting stance. We say things we would normally never say. We treat people in ways we would normally never treat them. We harden ourselves in every possible way; feeling and fearing that we cannot afford to stay tender. For to do so equals death.

We know this way of being; we have seen it in others, and if we are honest we have seen it in ourselves. But we also know something else. While a nihilistic, me-first, attitude is part of our experience it is not the only part, and we are certain that it is not the best part.

For what we also see is that saving your own skin is the last thing that actually counts in troubled times. What matters, what inspires, enlivens and teaches is having and helping each other, moving through it together. Not you or me, but we, all of us, together. We feel this physically too. It opens up our chest, we breathe deeper, our throats close up and our eyes fill with tears; we soften, letting tenderness in. The love found in helping where and when we can, even at personal loss, shines far brighter than the fear that would have us betray right relationship for a survival that is lonely, isolated, and apart.

I’ve heard multiple people from both sides of the political aisle say that Hurricane Harvey has been a kind of blessing because after the hatred, ignorance, racism, and division we saw in Charlottesville we needed to know that we, as a country, could come together. This strikes me as wrong for multiple reasons. I don’t think hurricanes work like that for one thing. For another it feels far too sentimental. I shudder to think of the attitude it could foster. Could precipitating a disaster be justified to ‘bring people together’?

But what I do find interesting is the yearning that I see across cultures, ethnic, and racial lines to be led by our better angels, not our worst selves. We know we have within us what is required to fuel more Charlottesvilles, for hate comes easy. We aren’t so sure, I think, that we have what it takes to mitigate a disaster like Harvey. We aren’t as sure any more that we can love that hard. So when we see that at least some of us can and do love that hard, I think a breath held by the collective is suddenly released. Maybe the sun will shine again after all.

Le Soleil – The Sun – recalls to mind the ancient Chinese concept of virtue, ren, which is a pictograph of a human being held within the number two, the number of relationship. This is a picture of humanity.

Our humanity – that is, who we really are – begins in at least two, in relationship, not with ourselves alone, egoistically conceived as prior to all other relationships. The starting point is right relationship, not isolated ego.

This is one part of the mystery held in the teaching found in many First Nation and indigenous communities, that life is made up of “all our relations” – people, creatures, rocks…all beings. Together.

In the Gospels, Christ drives toward the same idea, advising his people to be like the sun whose rays shine everywhere. Your deepest love is not partial. He doesn’t mean to say, um, be like a flashlight, shining on one thing (yourself) and forgetting about the others.

In Plato, the Sun was – playfully – the Good. Most of all, the Sun is fullness of vision and clarity of mind and consciousness – and consciousness is healing. This is the moment the sun returns after the troubling storm departs: now the rebuilding can begin.

When I see radically different groups of people, from different times, different parts of the world, and different cultures working hard to say something very similar, I pay attention. I think in all of the above examples there is an articulation of what it means to strive, together, to find wisdom and healing at the exact times they are most likely to disappear. I see that in each of the above examples there is a call to love, not as a way to avoid or escape the Tower crumbling and falling, but rather as a way to meet it, head on.

In a Delphic Days conversation, what I pull from my deck is not authoritative: you would also ask the question of your oracle of choice – whichever one works for you – and we would share and sort through the results, and let them guide us, as we move together slowly and collectively toward wisdom and healing, toward a perspective that counts.

I want to tell you, though, tenderly, that no useful perspective is forthcoming until we can recall out of the flooded lands and muck, some scattered old words back into our speech and into our reflections on our hardest experiences – until we can call some wanderers home again.

The disappearance of words in the mud of self-forgetting is surely an event in history. Since the time of Friedrich Nietzsche, it has been de rigueur to try to go “beyond” good and evil, to be the sort of people who create our own values.

Good and evil were understood to be bourgeois categories, guaranteeing mediocrity and stifling our (as it was understood) truly heroic and freely creative natures. We washed our hands of all self-righteous moralistic talk, disgusted with the moral absolutism and injustice it all-too-often inspired.

Case in point: the institution of slavery. We wanted a more just world, and in order to create it we knew we needed to stand on new ground, turn a fresh page, and cut out the language of good and evil that had been used to excuse and encourage barbaric practices.

The approach makes sense. It comes from the best possible place. The consequence, however, is that the concept and language of virtue has passed out of our line of sight, losing its currency in our ordinary ways of thinking and talking about hard experiences of life.

Virtue has even come to mean the opposite…sanctimonious hypocrisy, prejudice. Worse than that, the concept of virtue is becoming more and more language owned and used by some of the loudest and most hateful voices. I heard many people say many things about what happened in Charlottesville. I heard no one call it – for very long or at all – by its proper name: evil.

And here’s the thing that anyone whose lineage and life has been touched by slavery can tell you: You don’t erase the underlying thing by erasing the word. Even though we have lost the language of virtue, the phenomena of virtue or – what is more precise – the problems which virtue speaks to, are still there, everyday, practically unnamed and wandering about among us, homeless, sometimes with great harm and sometimes with astonishing grace.

We have seen virtue and its opposite on display in August, first in Charlottesville and then in Houston. We have seen it; but few of us have the language to speak to what we have seen. Which means that we also do not have the capacity to think and feel through those events with as much integrity and clarity as we might otherwise be able to. Which means in turn, that our actions in response may not be as rooted, clear-sighted, helpful, healing, and loving as we would have them be. That means that things like Charlottesville will happen again and again and again. And when we are at the point where we look to a massively destructive storm to make us feel better about ourselves, I think we need to re-assess what’s been given up and whether the trade off was worth it.

It is no coincidence, to my way of thinking as a Sacred Artist, that the Marseilles “Death” card Number XIII is unnamed. On the one hand, we know what it is. Death doesn’t need to be introduced. The Holy Names are sacred too – better to leave such things unnamed, the things that surpass all comprehension. But just look at the dismembered body parts strewn about under the sway of that sharp scythe. Death is unnamed because that is what fear does: it unnames us, freezes us, renders us mute.

Now flip this over and you can see something. Finding the true name of a thing, like your own true name, is not in fact dis-membering, but re-membering, bringing it back together, unifying, whole-making and holy. This is the challenge of the Death card. Do you know your name? Do you know yourself? Do you remember? This is why in my tradition we make such a big deal about remembering our Beloved Dead; in remembering them, we remember ourselves, we remember our capacity not just for fear but for love.

Perspective will come, then, when we can finally see that – after all – even though we don’t like to speak in absolutes, and we don’t want to be unjust people, we are not at all beyond the problems of good and evil, we are not beyond taking a stand for the good and for what is right, and perhaps even not beyond naming them for what they are in fact.

Maybe it is time, then, to humbly and simply welcome our homeless wanderers – those problems of good and evil – home again in our thinking, give them a place to reside, to clothe and nourish them, help them re-enter society – to educate them, to learn the lessons of the past, for the sake of our future together. Maybe they too are like ancestors and maybe it is time we start to remember them as such.

I suspect that when we do that we will know with more certainty that we are here to love hard and that we will be able to see with more clarity the ways and places that hate seeps in like so much poison and stop it in its tracks.

In the aftermath of August, we hear some popular speakers saying things like “human beings are “wired” to fundamentally good.” So attractive, for it offers a simple solution to life’s problems, but it is a silver bullet solution. I submit that this view, far from expanding our sight, in fact narrows our vision, blocks perspective – by obscuring what may be staring us in the face.

My thoughts have lately been with a specific client base that I have, and wondered what they would think about some of these popular speakers and their claims. These clients have been with me a very long time. They are mostly African-American, women, and in between the ages of 55-65. They are church-goers, and they have a deep memory: they remember the Civil Rights movement, they remember some of the events that made it necessary and that still do. I heard them say in their calm, alto voices, “People are fundamentally good? Bullshit. People make a choice to be good.” I love these clients of mine. They are not on Facebook. They are brief and polite in their email exchanges. They strongly prefer to speak on the phone. They don’t want to take a web-based anything, but they very much appreciate a straight up card reading. And they call it like it is. They have taught me so very much.

Sacred Artists and Soulful Seekers get relationships. We get awareness and paying attention. We are down for those projects. We even understand the need to choose love over fear. But we shy away from remembering that there is good and evil in the world for all the understandable reasons. But my “church ladies” – as I think of them – would have us remember something else: everyday we make choices, and if you have lost the language that describes what you are choosing then how will you make the best choice? How will you choose good? How will you choose love? How will you look at hate in the face and give it a name so that it might be vanquished, not forever, but for today?

Here is what’s known: Towers fall, Death comes, and the Sun will rise once more.
Here’s what’s not: How will you choose? Where will you stand? You or me or us, together? Fear and self-preservation? Or the much harder path of love that doesn’t turn away and something that, once upon a time, was called good?

Remember yourself.
Choose and be well.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on new moons and full moons each month.